When spring break arrived at Clemson University late last week, Akihiro Kosaka had no place to go and planned to stay on campus.
The plight of the Japanese exchange student concerned classmate Taylor Burke, who knew the campus would shut down this week.
Burke invited his friend to spend the week in Aiken with him and his parents, David and Tami Burke.
The opportunity could not have worked out better.
“I'm majoring in computer science and minoring in Japanese,” Burke said. “I've long had an interest in Japan.”
Kosaka grew up in Kyoto – a city that attracts tourists throughout the world for its temples and sites of extraordinary beauty.
He started college at Tohoku University in the city of Cendai as a mechanical engineering major. His travels have taken Kosaka to China, South Korea, Taiwan, Poland and other countries.
Still, he sought additional experiences and decided to visit America for a one-year exchange.
“I wanted to go to a not-so-famous college,” he said without irony. “But I was so surprised by American football and the big stadium at Clemson. It was scary and different.”
Burke, a sophomore, is completing his second year in Japanese and will continue to take the language his junior and senior years.
Kosaka began his own English studies as a middle-school student and was pleased and surprised to meet a Clemson student who knows Japanese.
“He is good,” Kosaka said of Burke's language skills. “I can talk to him about Japanese culture.”
Amused by the compliment, Burke isn't so sure about his skills just yet.
“But he (Kosaka) has helped me with language and grammar,” Burke said. “It's greet to have someone here with another culture.”
Kosaka has enjoyed America and will leave in May to return to Japan for his final year of college.
He wants to find an engineering position, “but I also want to introduce more Japanese stuff to people from other countries who are there,” he said. “I've been thinking about such a job.”
Learning another language is essential, Burke said, both in business and in the value it brings on a personal level.
“The world is much more connected,” he said. “It's necessary to be interested in other cultures. We shouldn't be chained to one system.”
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter.